Sunday was the General Smallwood Triathlon, a local race put on by Setup Events, that offered both a Sprint and Olympic distance race. I did the Olympic, while Rebecca did the Sprint. Going into this race, I wasn't sure how my body was going to respond. I timed my peak in training around Columbia and Eagleman, so I was hoping to have enough oomph to maintain my training in the 3 weeks following Eagleman and leading up through this race. I'll be the first to admit that I did not keep up my training, but I still put in a few solid workouts.
As race day approached, I found out that the water temperature was going to be in the mid 80s. Yes, you read that right. Race morning, they announced that the water temperature was 85! Whoa nelly, talk about a sauna. Unfortunately, that meant no wetsuit for moi. I've been fortunate in all of my Olympic distance races to have water temperatures cool enough to stay within the wetsuit legal threshold. But this was far from it. So, a first. 1500 meter swim, sans wetsuit. To be honest, I was kind of interested to see how much of an advantage it really does give me. I also didn't want to find out the hard way.
After a few extra minutes getting the boats and swim officials in place, the elites wave went off. The next wave was mine, 39-under. Since I wasn't wearing a wetsuit, I decided to wait till the last possible moment to get into the water, so I didn't have to waste energy treading out there for 5 minutes before the start. This worked out well and I jumped in with a little less than a minute to go and managed to find a spot close to the front on the far right side, which was on the outside of the buoy. With the horn sounding, I started my swim through the dark murky waters. There really wasn't anything I could see in the water. I barely saw bubbles from other people as I was trying to draft off them. Drafting seemed to work for a while after we hit the first turn buoy. I found someone of similar speed and stayed on his feet. Then he stopped and I bumped into him, but moved around and kept swimming away. The next turn was the diagonal swim back to the start buoy for the 2nd lap. All was going great, and I was even thinking about how great of a swim I was having, until I got a little less than half way down the segment. The Swamp Thing began attacking me. The Swamp Thing is also known as green stringy plant life that would wrap around your arms, legs, hands, face, etc. Whatever it could touch, it managed to tangle itself on my. Swimming became a struggle. Every time I would pull in my stroke, I'd hit more Swamp Thing. I tried pulling with a more bent arm in the hopes that I wouldn't be pulling as deep and avoid the Swamp Thing. But that didn't help. It was everywhere. Once I finally made it to the beginning of the 2nd lap, I was freed from the Swamp Thing and began the get into a rhythm again. As I did on the first lap, I found someone to draft off and kept swimming away. It was a little more crowded this time though, because people from the previous waves had been incorporated into the 750m swim loop, so I had a little contact. I even had someone grab my ankle and not let go for about 30 seconds as I pulled him along. The only way I broke free was when I stopped, flipped over and gave him the look of death and a big WTF! I finally got back into my rhythm again, but was soon greeted by the return of the Swamp Thing. It was while swimming through this mess that I realized I did not like this swim course AT ALL. I just wanted it to be over. I felt fine, but was truly frustrated because what should have been a great swim, turned to mush because of...mush in the water. I was in heaven once I reached the boat ramp, because I knew I'd never have to see that Swamp Thing again.
(Turns out, Winz, who was photographing the event, noted how much green crap people were covered in as they exited the water. And I'll add that my trisuit turned green down the white portion of it on the back. Nasty!)
After the swim exit, it was a long run up hill to the transition area. I'd guess close to 1/4 mile. I took my split on this because I wanted to know how much time this took me, as opposed to other races that have much shorter runs to transition. It took me 2 minutes to get there and I was running at a decent clip. Once in transition, I put on my usual gear, but I changed on thing. It has been typical in my races this year that I have gotten bad hamstring cramps in the first mile of the bike. Usually, a couple of Endurolytes will make it go away almost immediately. So this time, I popped a few of them while I was on transition, in the hopes that I wouldn't get the usual cramps. Sure enough, no crampage! I spent 1:29 actually getting my bike gear on and exiting. Not bad.
The ride out of the park had a short but steep climb, which led to the next 10 miles of steady hills. Nothing crazy, but pretty relentless. I was pushing pretty hard on them, playing cat and mouse with a couple of people. At some point around 10 miles in, I had a slight shifting issue when I was trying to shift into an easier gear, but my rear derailer didn't want to. I shifted a couple of gears until it finally moved, but it jumped 3 gears easier, which threw off my cadence. This caused a pretty harsh cramp in my right calf and for a moment I panicked. My first remedy was to pedal with only my left leg like I was doing 1 legged drills, but I knew I couldn't do the rest of the race like that. Then I reminded myself that I had Endurolytes and took a few as quickly as I could. This solved my problem immediately and I was back to both legs! At this point, I was pissed, so I really kicked it into high gear and tried to catch the people I was riding with before. When I finally found them, I stayed with them pretty much for the remainder of the course. It kind of kept it interesting at least, since I had someone to focus on. In doing so, we passed a good number of people, especially once we hit the section that joined up with the Sprint distance racers. For those last 8 or so miles, I pretty much had to stay to the left, since I was passing a lot of people. I cruised into the transition area with my feet already out of my shoes and managed to successfully complete my first flying dismount in a race. Woo!
Time: 1:13:24 (20.4 mph - PR!)
I raced into the transition area with my bike in tow. Threw on my run shoes, grabbed my bag of Endurolytes, and started on my way. On my way out from my rack, I spotted by dad and waved for the camera. Then, in an instant, I did a mental check to make sure I had anything. Shoes - check. Visor - nope. Race belt - nope. Uh oh. I was still wearing my bike helmet! So I turned around, threw my helmet down, and grabbed my other gear as I headed out. My time was still pretty quick, but it would have been even faster if I didn't make that mistake.
By now, the course was getting heated up. Temperatures were into the 80s and with a ton og humidity, it made it pretty brutal. I started out at a good pace, with a quick cadence, before we hit the same hill I had to bike up before. It was tough, but I pressed on and opened up my stride once I hot the top. Then it was up and down a series of large hills, along the same route as the bike course. I crossed mile 1 in about 8:45, but considering the hill I climbed, I was ok with the time. I figured there wouldn't be much more difficult hills out on the course. I was wrong. What irked me the most though, was that I was a little bit thrown off from the course description online. It read: "Once you have laced up your shoes you'll head back to the road for a fast out and back 10K with aid stations every mile." Umm...hate to break it to you, but up and down hills does not equal flat or fast. Nothing I could do but push along. I felt good, but just grew frustrated at each hill I'd come upon after cresting the one before it. The other thing was that I only saw mile markers on mile 1 and mile 4. Tons of people I was running with were confused about where we were on the course. I tried to use the water stops as my best guess, but they weren't as each mile marker either, so there was no way to tell. I felt like I was moving at a good clip and finally found the turnaround, at which point I picked it up a bit. I hit the last water stop and then turned into the woods for the rest of the course. Since there was no mile markers, I wasn't sure how long it would last. I was running pretty hard, and thought it was only a mile to go, but I believe it was longer, because on my recollection of the amount of time I spent running that section of the course. The surface varied from gravel, to roots, to packed dirt, to a few spots of sand. All I kept waiting for was the sounds of the finish line. I figured it had to come soon, but it wasn't until I had about 1/2 mile to go, that I finally heard it. The run to the finish came up the same hill as the swim run toward transition, which I was not excited to do again, but since it was the finish, I picked it up again as I cruised to the finish.
Final Time: 2:44:30
I was happy to have finished in the time that I did, even though it wasn't a PR. I missed my PR by only 57 seconds! Attacked by the Swamp Thing sans wetsuit, a 2 minute run to transition, leaving my helmet on as I began to exit T2, and a hilly run course made for an interesting day. Given all of that, I still managed to put in a good time. Plus I PR'd the bike course, with my first Olympic distance race where I averaged more than 20 mph. That was my last goal of the year at this distance. If only I can put together a race where I put them all together.
Thanks to Winz for the photos!